Making sure your emails are getting read

Recent blog posts and questions that I’ve been posed have seem to rotate around email marketing strategies. A few of the items that seem to circulate involve the following:

How can I increase the open rate of my emails?
In order for you to increase the open rate, the first place you’ll need to look at is your subject line. SPAM and junk filters now are a little bit more sophisticated than when email was first introduced years ago. You’ll need to be really creative with your subject lines since people tend to get dozens if not hundreds of emails a day or a week. This is probably where the copywriter in your organization (or at least the person responsible for content development) can get quite a challenge: you only have a limited amount of characters to make a first impression. Once you’ve attracted them to open it, then you can put more information in the message body.

Focus your initial efforts on the sender information & subject lines. Assume that your audience/recipients aren’t using Microsoft Outlook to receive their emails. You’ll need to make sure that the sender information is legit, not sales-ish or sound too “market-ish”. Choose a decent email address that your users will grow accustomed to and will be prone to saving it to their address book, thereby hopefully avoiding the junk mail folder. Don’t abuse this email address to send unwarranted emails as that will wind up screwing up your rapport with your database.

What campaigns or strategies can be used to help draw more interest in your product?
This is an interesting question that was brought up and it could be very different for each company or organization. I would suggest making use of your company partners and see if you can’t tie in a promotion with them. Another idea would be to send periodic newsletters or quick email blasts to your database letting them know some of the latest changes happening on your website or promotion. Having targeted list is always helpful and sending them information relevant to their wants and interests is particularly important.

How to work your creative.
When planning your campaign and email strategies, your creative can motivate people to learn more. Think about your creative as letterhead you’re sending out to your list. There is a reason why people have asked you for more information. It’s not because of your creative skills. I’m reminded of the old adage K.I.S.S. – KEEP IT SIMPLE STUPID. The first three letters are especially important. Make sure you have a simple design that doesn’t utilize too many images as that will definitely distract from the focus. The more images you have versus the text may cause filters to label it as SPAM and your list won’t receive the emails.

Obviously the basic rules about email marketing still apply when it relates to design. HTML is useful, but linking to a CSS style sheet isn’t good. Make sure that you do in-line coding when designing your email blast. It also is very helpful that if you’re having a marketer or PR individual do email blasts, that they know some HTML (both recognizing and editing) as there’s no way around modifying and managing email marketing programs without this essential skill.

How can I send out my emails?
There are many ways to send out emails for marketing campaigns. Do not use Outlook to mass mail as that will wind up being unprofessional and can increase the chances of SPAM. Instead, use third-party vendors like Blue Sky Factory, Vertical Response, Constant Contact, Informz, RealMagnet, or any one of perhaps a dozen systems. They’re rather inexpensive and can provide you with accurate testing and analytic capabilities.

What are some best practices or where can I find more information?
If you want to learn more about best practices or simply find some resources to help in your email marketing campaign, Vertical Response has a pretty good help section on their website. Email Labs has a good page on best practices. Check out Blue Sky Factory’s blog on email marketing or read their 2008 email marketing guidelines for helpful resources.

By Ken Yeung

Ken Yeung is a journalist fascinated with the stories of the tech industry and internet culture. He's currently the Technology Editor at Flipboard, where he observes what's happening in the space while also identifying new topics of interest. In addition, he co-hosts the weekly internet show "The Created Economy," which focuses on what's happening to creators and influencers. Previously, he was a reporter for VentureBeat and The Next Web, covering tech startups, the industry's innovations and funding. Ken also has a newsletter you should also subscribe to called "Filed."